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WPI Technical Theatre Handbook: The Input Section
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The Input Section

The inputs to a sound system will vary from production to production. Productions can demand a wide variety of components such as wireless body microphones for key actors, offstage microphones for ``disembodied voice'' effects, CD players for music, a computer or digital sampler for effects playback, etc. Once all of the sounds have been gathered and discussions have been had with the production design team, the audio designer should have a reasonably good idea about what types of inputs are needed.

The choice of CD player generally matters little, as even the cheapest produce reasonably good sound. Better models allow programming and auto-cue features, which make running a show manually off of a CD player much easier. Try to choose a model with so-called ``direct access'' features that allow any track to be called up by typing its number, rather than having to skip through all tracks to reach a later track. Standard consumer CD players generally have these features and will do the job nicely. In cases where computer automation is being used, computer-based CD-ROM drives are often used in place of discrete CD players. Some automation packages, such as SMsurround, can support an unlimited number of individual and multi-disc CD-ROM drives, making the audio operator's job very easy if many CDs need to be dealt with.

The choice of standard microphones for vocals is largely a subjective matter. Different microphones have different characteristics and will make people sound different. When in doubt, the old standby, the Shure SM-58 will usually do the job well. Smoother response can be had when working with female voices if a microphone such as the Beyerdynamic M-88 is used, but this is quite subjective. If wireless microphones are to be used, they should be the true-diversity type as they are much less susceptible to interference. The design should place the wireless receivers as close to where they will be used as possible, and as far away from other electrical equipment as possible.

In situations where a computer or sampler are to be used, there are numerous choices to be made. Often what is used is simply what is available. It should be noted that inexpensive computer sound cards will yield less-than-satisfactory results, as they have a tendency to produce a lot of hiss and distorted sound. Generally, as the cost of a sound card increases, it can generally be expected that the sound quality will increase as well. Digital samplers are available with many different features and sound qualities. If a sampler is going to be used for a show, the audio design should specify what type of sampler, or at the very least what sorts of features are needed.

Figure 6.16: A diagram of the input section of the audio system for the 1995 WPI Masque production of King Henry V, designed by the author.

next up previous contents index
Next: Signal Processing Up: Designing the Sound System Previous: Designing the Sound System   Contents   Index
Steve Richardson 2000-07-06

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